Meeting Greta Thunberg


Photo by Chieh Hsu

Me sitting in a rally with Greta Thunberg along with other environmentalists.

She is a teenager who lost interest in eating and talking because society wasn’t doing enough to address a problem she cared about. Two years ago, she started skipping school because she felt obligated to stand and hold a piece of cardboard next to the Swedish parliament. Last year, during the week of Sept. 20-27, she rallied a multitude across the globe. From Austria to Thailand to Mali to Brazil to the US, millions marched by her side. Two years ago, only a few people from her community recognized her. Now, every soul who proclaims themself conscious of climate change respects her name. She is Greta Thunberg.
In August 2019, I went to my first protest: a vigil in front of the White House to commemorate victims of the El Paso shootings. I sang with my friends from the choir and was indulged with stories shared by the speakers. The same month, as the Amazon rainforest was ablaze, I gathered a group of friends to carry signs and march on the streets to advocate for the crisis. When Greta Thunberg came to DC, I was excited and skipped school to join her “Friday for Future” rally. I had been following her on Instagram, but seeing her in person is a totally different experience. At first glance, I could have mistaken her for a shy middle schooler. Simply put, she did not seem to be fond of mass social gatherings. Several times she disappeared into the crowd, taking a break from the media attention. One fellow protestor almost got into a fight with a reporter for being too aggressive while trying to get pictures of Greta. By sheer chance, I ended up sitting two people from my heroine when the gathering sat down in front of the White House. Although she was everyone’s reason for being there, no one made an attempt to talk to her. The protestors seemed to understand that we should not disturb her, and Greta seemed to be pleased and stared out to the Ellipse while we sat there. When the time has come for her to get up to the front of the group and talk about her plan in North America, I told her I was a fan and that we loved her. She nodded in acknowledgment.
Later that day when a journalist asked me why I chose to attend the rally, I told her that I was there for youths’ rights to speak out against the government and the system. Being in school doesn’t mean that we cannot participate in demonstrations\; in fact, we should be encouraged to march since the future is ours. We are the generation that will either suffer or benefit from the decisions and mistakes that humanity makes now, and we simply cannot give our fate up to the adults.
Greta’s story is a reminder that no one is too small to make a difference. If she can overcome her Asperger’s to rally the biggest global protest in history, the least we can do is to join suit and recite the proverb: “Instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come.”